The Chinese government is developing a genetic tool for human surveillance, using DNA to predict people’s physical appearance.
This new technology is based on DNA collected from Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province. The Xinjiang region has a population of 22 million with about 10 million Uyghurs, and an estimated 1 million Uyghur Muslims are being held by Chinese authorities in prisons called “re-education centers” by communist Chinese government. China is reportedly sending men to sleep in the same beds as Uighur Muslim women while their husbands are in the prison camps, causing untold numbers of rape.
News of the China’s new genetic research, which some have compared to eugenicist research done by Nazi German scientists, has created additional concerns that samples of the Uighurs’ DNA are being obtained without proper consent, and may be used by the Chinese government to further persecute the ethnic Uighur Muslims in China.
The new genetic technology, called DNA phenotyping, has been used in other countries to solve criminal cases, but the process is in nascent stages of development. Currently, scientists have developed only the ability to reconstruct general facial images, including discerning features such as skin, eye, and hair color, but not a completely accurate representation of a specific human face. China is working to develop such an accurate genetic tool to use in their facial recognition database, and they are developing the tool with the blood of Uighur Muslims, and “there is virtually no Uyghur family without one or more members in such detention, and a rising number of Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are likewise affected,” according to Adrian Zenz, a social sciences lecturer at Germany’s European School of Culture and Theology.
Reports were forbidden by the communist Chinese government from verifying whether blood samples used in their research was taken without consent. Additionally, it has been reported that many of those whose blood was taken had vanished. The torture of Uighur Muslim prisoners is also common according to leaked documents and reports from former prisoners.
“What the Chinese government is doing should be a warning to everybody who kind of goes along happily thinking, ‘How could anyone be worried about these technologies?’” said Pilar Ossorio, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
China is developing “essentially technologies used for hunting people,” said Mark Munsterhjelm, a researcher of Chinese technological interests at the University of Windsor in Ontario.
China has been using facial recognition to police it’s population in a variety of ways, including preventing citizens with a bad “social credit score” from using public transportation or flying on planes. A reported 2.5 million “discredited entities” were prevented from purchasing plane tickets and 90,000 people from buying high speed train tickets in the month of July alone.
China also recently began using facial recognition for payment. The new payment method combined with China’s dystopian “social credit” score may lock dissenters out of the economy. Chinese citizens will also be forced to pass a facial recognition test that runs them through their social credit score database before being allowed to use the Internet.
Chinese citizens that speak out against the government in any way – even making comments on social media – are subject to arrest and imprisonment. Serious dissenters may even be subject to death via China’s mobile execution vans where organs are harvested and sold.
Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Uighur woman who fled a Xinjiang detention camp, told Haaretz last month that she witnessed a gang rape and medical experiments on other prisoners. She said she was also subject to beatings and food deprivation because another prisoner hugged her.
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